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As far as I understand things, air conditioning was standard in cars in the USA as early as by the mid-1950s or so. Perhaps even sooner.

In the late 1990s, our car (common model of Volvo, albeit a few years old for sure) in Europe had no air conditioning at all. It was often very hot to sit in in the summer. (Just as it was very cold in the winter.)

I've endured the last 20 years worth of hot summers without air conditioning. Actually, in 2016 or something, I did have it briefly, in the form of a portable unit which was located indoors and hooked up to the window in a very problematic manner, because it was clearly not made for windows which open inward (it expected slide windows), to the point where I had to get rid of it since it kept coming loose all the time, driving me absolutely insane. (But the coldness it produced, for the short bursts when it was working as intended, was Heaven-like.)

In the USA, it seems as if even the cheapest possible place where you can live still has air conditioning as a "minimum standard of living", since what seems like decades at the least.

How come this wonderful invention is basically unheard of here, in spite of it being so unbearably hot, whereas it's extremely common in the USA?

I did notice even as a kid that the fancy houses had AC units on the outside, so it definitely did exist, but seems to have been (and remained) something of a luxury product which by no means is standard or even common in apartments.

Why is this?

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    $\begingroup$ Where is "here"? Cars in the Eu tended not to have a/c as it made them more expensive, it was available for several makes and models as a special order extra - even Landrovers could have a factory fitted a/c but at a price when they were for use in hot coutries but as places like the UK had 3 hot days per year it was not "standard". Of course now it seems people are "softer" and just about all models of car have a/c - the more expensive with 2 or 4 zones that can be independently controlled. $\endgroup$
    – Solar Mike
    Aug 6, 2020 at 17:29
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    $\begingroup$ Could I say it is a higher standard of living provided by capitalism without being censured ? $\endgroup$ Aug 6, 2020 at 19:05

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In American homes you can get portable units for pretty cheap. They may not be the greatest but they work. Central air is more expensive but again most people view the comfort as worth the expense. My grandmother did not have central AC in her home until the 90's even though the inside temperature could get up to 95 F (lots of fans and open windows). Even the cheapest apartments I had all had a window AC unit and this is in a more temperate part of the country.

Not sure about cars, but every passenger vehicle I've ever been in has had AC.

Societal norms are also different. Sweat and body odor are frowned upon here, where apparently in some other cultures nobody cares.

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  • $\begingroup$ Well, I can assure you that vehicles made 20 or 30 years ago did not come with a/c as standard - and it is only the last 3 cars I have had where I have had the benefit of a/c. $\endgroup$
    – Solar Mike
    Aug 6, 2020 at 17:54
  • $\begingroup$ I would say AC started getting pretty common in cars in the 70's. Then carmakers removed the small vent windows and you had to get AC. I was reasonably happy with vent windows and no AC as long as you were not stopped in traffic. $\endgroup$ Aug 6, 2020 at 19:10
  • $\begingroup$ I remember an uncle who was an MD had a 1952 Cadillac with AC ; the ones with the clear plastic tubes in the rear window- like some science fiction. As a kid I don't think I knew what it meant when my parents told me it had AC. $\endgroup$ Aug 6, 2020 at 19:15
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Regulations have been a significant factor; unfortunately the US is now adding to them ( esp. blue states). An example ; In about 1968 ( Indiana) I decided to put in AC; I never even considered permits, etc. I went to Sears ( they had everything then) bought a compressor, evaporator coil, precharged copper tubing, and must have also been electric wire. Cut open the air plenum of the furnace and pushed in the biggest coil that could fit. Ran the copper tubes outside to the compressor . Put some wire in conduit and ran from the electric box out to the compressor. Carefully tightened the precharged copper lines . And turned on the AC , it was still fine when I moved in 1974. No electric permits,no Freon permits, no furnace permits,etc. I doubt that would have been possible in western Europe. But now AC is expected in the US so you have to live with the added regulations. I also refilled a 1985 Pontiac AC with the old Freon before you needed permits, it worked fine.

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  • $\begingroup$ Were there regulations against air conditioning in other countries? $\endgroup$
    – Mark
    Aug 9, 2020 at 5:33
  • $\begingroup$ AC is permitted (pun). You just need permits which also means the work can only be done by licensed ( costly) contractors in western Europe.But also in other socialist places; I was in China on business in about 1993. October but chilly ,but they could not turn on the heat in a large office building until Nov.1 per regulations. $\endgroup$ Aug 9, 2020 at 15:33
  • $\begingroup$ But why would the requirement for permits and licensed contractors affect air conditioning any differently than plumbing, framing, electrical, foundations, or any other field that also requires permits and licensed contractors? $\endgroup$
    – Mark
    Aug 9, 2020 at 21:50

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